Cold weather and stress seem to go hand in hand. Perhaps it’s the lack of sunshine and its mood-regulating vitamin D. It may be a decrease in social activity, as people opt to spend more time indoors. Or it could be the mayhem of the holiday season, which sends a ripple effect through the rest of the season.
Whatever the reason, psychologists typically agree that winter is the most stressful season. And it may be doubly stressful this year, as the pandemic lockdowns force people further indoors. As the air gets brisker and the days get shorter, it’s vital to be proactive about your mental health.
What can you do to stave off stress this winter? In this article, let’s look at seven effective methods for staying calm.
1. Get Organized
You’ve probably heard the adage, “mess is stress.” It’s a truism that most people know all too well. And the problem is exacerbated by the pandemic.
According to National Geographic, the pandemic is breeding clutter in the average home, which in turn produces stress. This creates a vicious cycle, they point out, since stress can make it more difficult for people to manage clutter. To put it in simpler terms: the more clutter you accumulate, the more stressed you are; the more stressed you are, the more clutter you accumulate.
To kick your clutter to the curb, visit Neatspaces.ca to hire a professional organizing service. Organization experts offer decluttering, editing, full home organizing and space improvement services that help you remove clutter – and keep it out for good. They will work with you to uncover your goals and objectives, then get to work disposing of unneeded items and creating easy-to-follow organizational systems for you.
2. Take Up Online Yoga
The millennia-old practice of yoga can be a powerful tool for de-stressing. Combining meditation and physical activity – two practices scientifically proven to reduce stress – yoga is a one-two punch for stress relief.
Luckily, you don’t have to leave the house to do it. With the proliferation of YouTube channels and apps dedicated to offering free yoga classes, picking up the practice is as easy as opening your phone. Clear a space in a quiet room, find an online yoga class that suits your skill level and start breathing and stretching your way to stress relief.
3. Start a Book Club with Friends
Sometimes, all your stress needs is a distraction. Getting lost in a whimsical novel or engaging non-fiction book can help you take your mind off the pandemic and the chilly weather outside.
To further increase the stress-relief benefits of reading, start a book club with friends. Socializing is another effective de-stressor. Having a weekly Zoom book club to look forward to can be a much-needed comfort during stressful times.
To start, choose a novel or non-fiction title that isn’t too heavy – something with a breezy tone and happy ending should do the trick. Make plans to meet at a time when people aren’t too busy, like mid-day Sunday. And come prepared with questions about the book to guide the discussion.
4. Prioritize Your Mental Health Over Daily Goals
You’ve set a schedule for yourself that includes waking up early, exercising in the morning, working, cleaning, cooking, meditating and about ten other daily goals. But are you prioritizing your mental health?
In a bid to be as productive as possible, sometimes people lose sight of protecting themselves from stress. It can be distressing when you set high daily expectations for yourself and fail to meet them. Be gentler on yourself by creating a flexible daily routine that includes some time for relaxation and leisure. And if you fail in your daily goals, go easy on yourself. That leads to the next point…
5. Learn Positive Self-Talk
Self-talk is your internal dialogue, and it sets a clear tone for your mood and mental wellbeing. If you are constantly criticizing yourself for perceived failures or inaction, it can spark feelings of inadequacy and guilt.
Negative self-talk generally falls into one of three categories: personalizing (when you blame yourself for everything,) catastrophizing (when you expect the worst from situations) and magnifying (when you zero in on negative things, blocking out the positive.)
To practice positive self-talk, begin by identifying your personal patterns of negative self-talk. Next time you catch yourself in a negative pattern, take a step back, realize what you are doing, and try to view the subject of your thoughts through a positive lens.
6. Kick the Coffee and Alcohol (or at Least Moderate Them)
Most people like to start the day with a hot cup of coffee, and end it with a cold drink. But these two common drugs can add to your stress, especially if you use either in excess.
Coffee can elevate your levels of cortisol – the same hormone your body produces when it’s stressed. Therefore, that third cup of java might be artificially producing a feeling your body recognizes as stress. The same is true for alcohol; while it may seem calming at the time, it also causes your brain to release increased cortisol levels. Have too many alcoholic beverages, and you’ll be subject to the dreaded “hangover anxiety.”
Coffee and alcohol are fine – even beneficial – in moderation. But as the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, resist the urge to overuse these two substances.
7. Watch a Funny Movie
“Laughter is the best medicine” is more than just a trite aphorism. Science has proven that laughter is effective in relieving stress. It enhances your oxygen intake, increases your endorphin levels, decreases your blood pressure and soothes your brain’s stress responses.
Next time you’re feeling stressed, pop in a funny or search for comedies on your preferred streaming service. It doesn’t have to be an Oscar winner – just something that makes you chuckle. After all, stress is no joke.
Between the darkness and coldness of the season, the uncertainty of the pandemic and the usual chaos of the holidays, this winter might be a stressful one. Be proactive about your mental health by following the tips above. Just you wait – spring is right on the other side of it!